Apparently, they don’t make the security lights I once knew anymore. Back in the 1960s, if you were in any barnyard in Ohio, you’d find a security light. From dusk to dawn, this pole lamp would cast a wide swath of light across the family home, barn, and outbuildings. You usually only needed one for the main property, so bright was its glow.
You could hardly miss their presence if you were outside at night. First, there was an ever-present buzz from the filaments. And, boy, were they were bright. According to a blog site called Night Sky NM, they’re listed under “Bad Lighting” as “glare bombs.” Maybe. But as a child hunting fireflies, they would attract the desired insect while you crept around in the shadows.
More lighting talk. Tonight, while I was visiting the world’s best mother-in-law at Countryside in Jackson, she had a book light that clamped to her bedside tray. It was activated by a tap of the finger: low, medium, high. Tap. Tap. Tap. A security setting for every occasion.
On my mantle is a set of string lights, a strand fine enough to bury in decorations and behind knick-knacks. For a while they were a mystery, popping on and off at precisely the right time of day, around when we arrived home and when we went up to bed. Come to find out, one setting is a six-hour timer. Since I turned them on the first time around 5:30p, they continued to light up then and go out by 11:30p.
Within the last six months, two of my personal security lights flared out. One was my mother. The other was my mother’s youngest brother, my Uncle Chuck, whose funeral we attended today in rural, which is to say agricultural, Ohio.
If a light in your life was part of your childhood, there’s an ever-present buzz which indicates they exist, even if you are outside the orbit of their glow. Sometimes, I needed their light more than others. Tap. Light on. A phone call. Tap. Light off. I’ll talk to you later. Tap tap. I’m coming to the family reunion. Tap tap tap. I’m lonely and I need you. I’m driving down Old State Road and passed the farmstead. I miss home.
As I got older, it was harder to reset the timer. Raising a family. Working. Volunteering. Living across multiple states. Hidden, the connecting strands were still there.
At my mother’s funeral, the words buzzed around me. I can’t recall many that were strung together, except a few of my brother’s pithier comments, but still they brought a radiant comfort. Her characteristics: steadfastness, loyalty, caring. Her talents: cooking, mentoring, caring.
Today, I clearly heard the homily regarding my uncle. Every committee he met became family. Every introduction came with a huge smile. Every task deserved excellence. Excellence equalled perfection. Family was everything and holidays were for family.
Two lights snuffed within eight months, security from my childhood, with bulbs I cannot replace.
It has not escaped my notice that new light fixtures may be hung, though “improvements” in technology have silenced the buzz, reduced the brilliance. As a generation of younger models, I am hoping that we cast the same light.